Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern München – Friday, January 12, 19:30GMT/20:30CET – BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany
After a short winter break, the Bundesliga season returns on Friday with Bayer Leverkusen hosting record champion Bayern München. Chosen as the Rückrundenauftakt (the game that officially kick starts the second half of the season) the game will be broadcasted live on public television on Friday night and across the world into various households.
The officials from the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) could not have chosen a much more attractive match to showcase the league. Bayern München, revitalised under Jupp Heynckes, once again look like one of Europe’s top clubs. Bayern have been relentless under the 72-year-old head coach only losing one game—against Gladbach—since his take over in October opening up an eleven-point gap at the top of the table to second-placed Schalke and more importantly a 13-point gap to third-placed rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Although at times Bayern seem beatable the Bavarian powerhouse have been able to grind out results under Heynckes. The 72-year-old breaches defensive stability before tactical adventurisms and with this in mind Bayern have often set deep working oppositions to get optimal results. The run of three 1-0 victories, against Köln, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, ahead of the winter break highlight this. In all three games Bayern, however, also showed that the side was beatable and that team was in need of a break.
Whether the winter break was enough to rejuvenate Bayern will be tested on Friday when they visit fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Coached by Heiko Herrlich Bayer Leverkusen have quietly moved up the table to finish the first half of the season in fourth-placed even on points with third-placed Borussia Dortmund.
There were plenty of question-marks about Bayer going into the season. But some believed that Leverkusen could once again become a force in German football. After all, Bayer had only lost Kevin Kampl, and Chicharito in the offseason, many of the young stars in the squad were ready for the next step, and Bayer also added workhorse Sven Bender to the fold. Without European football to worry Herrlich had time to rebuild Bayer, who are one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch at the moment.
Without the injured Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels Bayern will face a side that is more than capable of giving them a run for their money. At the same time, Heiko Herrlich will have to demonstrate that he can field a balanced side that can play against the big boys and win. Bayern are relentless, and Jupp Heynckes’ men could quickly punish a team that is to focused on breaking forward in numbers.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern München – Players to look out for:
Leon Bailey #9 – Bayer Leverkusen
On Monday German magazine kicker voted Leon Bailey as the best-attacking winger in the Bundesliga of the Hinrunde. Categorized as international class, the second highest category in the ranking, Bailey beat out Kingsley Coman, Arjen Robben and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard to take the top spot. An argument could have been made that Bailey should have been categorised world class, but his poor start to the season and lack of international games meant that the jury is still somewhat out on the Jamaican winger. At the same time, it is hard to argue against the fact that Bailey is one of the best players in the league. A complete package the Jamaican is quick shows sound decision-making skills and tracks back to cover his defensive duties. Scouted by several English Premier League clubs, Bailey will now have to show that he can complete his skill sets against a top side like Bayern München.
Sandro Wagner #2 – Bayern München
Brought in as a backup for Bayern’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski Sandro Wagner raised some eyebrows when he chose the #2 after signing for the Bavarians. The number many felt was symbolic of the fact that he was a backup for one of the best forwards in world football. Wagner, however, was adamant that he would get his playing time and that he would use the playing time to make Germany’s 2018 FIFA World Cup squad. Now, earlier than expected, Wagner will get his chance. Lewandowski will miss the game on Friday and Wagner will start for his new club, and it will be up to him to use this opportunity to show that he is not just a backup to Lewandowski, but perhaps a real challenger for the position up front.
Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern München – Match Stats
- Bayer Leverkusen are the only team that scored in their last 22 games.
- The last time Bayer failed to score was on matchday 29 of the 2016-17 season in a 0-0 draw against Bayern München.
- Bayer Leverkusen’s record at home against Bayern is: W13 D10 L15
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern München 1-1
Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern München – Lineups
Leno – Tah, S. Bender, Retsos – L. Bender, Kohr, Aranguiz, Wendell – Havertz, Bailey – Volland
Head Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Ulreich – Kimmich, Boateng, Süle, Alaba – Javi Martínez – Müller, Vidal – Robben, Wagner, Ribery
Head Coach: Jupp Heynckes
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.